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Donor Doctors the Main Reason for Shortage

12 September 2005

Organ Donor Doctors the Main Reason for Shortage

The headlines in the major papers today highlight just how bad New Zealand’ organ donation situation is.

Recently the government announced that should they return to power they would implement a National Organ Donor Register.

I have come a long way in my ‘one man campaign’ for a reform in the organ donor system over the past three years. During that time I have been told “I am wrong, there is nothing wrong with the present system.” Annette King wrote to me suggesting that I don’t write to her anymore as it would be pointless. Organ donor officials said my campaign could lower the donor rates further. And a highly placed official told me that if “I did not stop my campaign; I may find that my daughter goes to the bottom of the transplant waiting list.”

Despite the ‘veiled’ threats, which I must admit shocked me into thinking that maybe I should desist. I decided to continue harder than ever. Now not only is the Minister of Health back on talking terms with me, but in her media releases and interviews gives me full credit for the changes that are happening (A new organ donor register, a new National Organ Donor Service and compensation for ‘live’ donors.)

I note also that since I started my campaign that donor rates have gone up by 8%.

All these initiatives will be pointless unless the organ donor officials/doctors get off their high horses, stop being arrogant and realise that their ‘morals’ are no higher than anyone else’s.

On the announcement of a new register, the head of the Liver Transplant Service said it would not work, and then qualifies why it won’t work by saying “because we won’t use it.” And then points out that they never use the driving licence system either to check if someone has indicated whether they wish to be a donor. They prefer to let the families decide if that person should be a donor or not, irrespective of what that person’s wishes were.

At a public meeting the same transplant doctor announced that; “even if the law was changed so that family could not veto a donor’s wishes, we would ignore that law and continue to go with the family wishes.” How arrogant is that?

It is not up to the doctors to decide they know better than the individual and transfer that person’s rights over to another. What happened to informed consent and autonomy?

What the organ donor officials don’t tell you is that when they steal that right off you and give it to families instead that it isn’t just families that can veto your wish. It can be absolutely anyone who decides to phone the hospital and object. If there is just you, no living relation whatsoever to contact and you are fatally injured in an accident, if they bother to check your licence and note that in fact you have put donor on your licence you will still not become an organ donor – Why? Because there is no family to ask. Even though it’s specified on your licence as your wish.

I am curios that in the many interviews I have seen with the transplant doctors that they keep saying “most families do want to follow the donor’s wishes.” And “it’s not usual for families to veto the donor’s wishes.” Though they always steer well clear of giving you the actual numbers.

So it may come as some surprise to you to find out that families vetoed the request for organs in nearly 50% of cases last year…

Another ‘scare mongering’ statement that has been made several times is “if we ever took the organs against the wishes of the family, that would be the last set of organs we would ever get.”

Well that may be the case for ‘that’ patient, as they’ve already taken them, but if families could not veto the donor’s wishes how could there be negative publicity in the media stemming from the family? If the family tried to veto the donor’s wish and it was refused they could go to the media and say “they wouldn’t let me veto my second cousin’s wish to be a donor.” Why would the media be interested? Wouldn’t they say, “Well why should you, and it is the law.”

It is interesting to note that in documents released under the Official Information Act which the Ministry of Health did not want to release, (it had to go to the Ombudsman before we got hold of them.) It gave details of meetings of the Review of the Human Tissue Act 1964 which deals with organ donation. From the documents of these meetings it shows that the entire group of people who control organ donation in this country voted for ‘Status Quo’ when it comes to the organ donation system. i.e. they want no change.

Therefore I feel it is a bit rich of these people to go whining in the national newspapers today that they have to use old and diseased organs because there is such a shortage!

If they spent more time thinking outside of the square rather than their continual efforts to dumb down ideas for improving organ donor rates we would get a lot more donors. We have tried it their way for the past 20 years and we have the lowest rates in the Western World. It’s time to try another way.

The promotion of donation should be taken off them completely; after all they are in the medical profession, not marketing. It should be passed over to a leading marketing company to promote people to sign up on the register.

It’s about time they got out of the dark ages of thinking they are better, and know what’s best for everyone and come to terms with the fact that they are just the ‘plumbers.’ They are there to do the human plumbing. It’s up to the people to decide what happens to their organs not them.


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